Thursday, 20 October 2016

Return To Satan's World

Recent combox discussion has interested me in rereading Satan's World, partly to seek any clues about ages of characters or dates of events. How does this one novel fit into the dynamic History of Technic Civilization? Satan's World features Nicholas van Rijn and his trade pioneer crew/trader team of David Falkayn, Adzel and Chee Lan. For the purposes of this discussion, the contents of the History can be summarized as follows:

two pre-League stories;
five stories and one novel about van Rijn;
one story about Adzel solo;
two stories about Falkayn solo;
two stories about the team, with an early cameo of van Rijn with Falkayn;
three other stories set in the Polesotechnic League period;
three works featuring both van Rijn and the team;
twenty four subsequent installments, including several novels!

The three works featuring van Rijn and the team are:

Satan's World;

Poul Anderson had intended to end the League sub-series of the History with "Lodestar" but later added Mirkheim which thus became the culmination of eighteen installments yet was not even at the midpoint of the History. Some characters in the History have become well-known to sf readers and are also well-known within the History, e.g.:

"'Everyone knows of Nicholas van Rijn.'" (David Falkayn: Star Trader, p. 341)

"'...I have encountered tales of Admiral Flandry's exploits...'" (Flandry's Legacy, p. 213)

And some of the texts that we read also exist within the History:

"Now The Earth Book of Stormgate is ended." (Rise Of The Terran Empire, p. 323)

As we begin to read Satan's World, Falkayn, visiting the Solar System, is a celebrity because of his association with van Rijn.

League Lives

In Poul Anderson, The Technic Civilization Saga, Volume I, The Van Rijn Method:

Adzel is a student;
James Ching advances from student to apprentice;
Juan Hernandez is an apprentice;
David Falkayn advances from apprentice to journeyman;
Emil Dalmady advances from factor to entrepreneur;
Nicholas van Rijn, Martin Schuster and Thomas Overbeck are Masters in the Polesotechnic League.

In Volume II, David Falkayn: Star Trader:

Falkayn has become a Master Merchant working for van Rijn with Adzel in his crew.

Thus, we stay with three of the eight characters introduced in Volume I but the History of the Polesotechnic League is considerably more than just a van Rijn series followed by a trader team series. In the post-League History, of course, Dominic Flandry is, in successive volumes, Ensign, Lieutenant Commander, Commander, Knight, Captain, Admiral and Fleet Admiral. 

Wednesday, 19 October 2016

How Much Is Introduced In The Early Stories

See The Early Stories.

"The Saturn Game"
Jerusalem Catholicism is the religion of Philippe Rochefort and Axor.
The colonized Moon is the scene of important events in Satan's World.

"Wings of Victory"
Ythri: home planet of all the Ythrians.
Hermes: home planet of David Falkayn of the trader team.
Cynthia: home planet of Chee Lan of the trader team.
Woden: home planet of Adzel of the trader team.

"The Problem of Pain"
Aeneas: the setting of The Day Of Their Return.
Avalon: the setting of The People Of The Wind; a planet colonized by Terrans and Ythrians led by Falkayn.

"Margin of Profit"
Van Rijn: Falkayn's employer and grandfather-in-law.

"How To Be Ethnic..."
Alfzar: site of a Covenant between Terra and Merseia.

The Three-Cornered Wheel: Conclusion

"Kirsh" is indeed an abbreviation of "Krishna." It is rendered as "Krish" on The Van Rijn Method, p. 253.

Schuster subverts Ivanhoan theology by introducing the Kaballah. Part of his argument is that:

before the creation, no thinking, speaking creatures existed;
therefore, God's existence lacked the element of being observed and comprehended;
therefore, it was incomplete;
but the perfect God cannot be incomplete;
therefore, it was necessary for Him to create conscious beings that would be able to know Him.

The idea is that the Ivanhoans are unused to thinking outside their orthodoxy but some of them want to so dissension can be sown. But they need to hear Schuster's ingenuous arguments only to discard them! Surely God is believed to know and comprehend Himself? And why accept the premise of a perfect God in the first place?

I do not understand the description of the wheelless wagon at the end of the story but why was Falkayn able to think of the constant-width polygon when the Engineer was unable to?

In "The Three-Cornered Wheel," Falkayn is seventeen;
in "Wingless," his grandson, Nat, grows up and befriends Ythrians on Avalon;
in The People Of The Wind, their descendant, Tabitha Falkayn, grows up among Ythrians on Avalon;
in The Day Of Their Return, generations later, an Avalonian Ythrian spies on Aeneas;
in "Starfog," Daven Laure contacts descendants of Aenean rebels in another spiral arm -

- and that, unfortunately, is as far as the History of Technic Civilization extends.

Realization Under Fire

In "The Three-Cornered Wheel," Poul Anderson combines an action scene with a problem-solving exercise. Falkayn is thinking while defending himself from attack by archers and firing back with his blaster:

"He ought to have hit, with a broad beam at such close range. The bolt struck the barricade and greasy smoke puffed outward. The Larsan dove for cover.
"What made Falkayn's hand jerk was suddenly seeing the answer." (The Van Rijn Method, p. 245)

This is the first of at least two moments of realization in Falkayn's career. This one is marked not by going tense, breaking off in mid-sentence, leaping up or shouting but by missing his shot. It makes sense. Fight scenes and problem-solving are two hallmarks of Anderson's fiction. Falkayn tries to radio the answer while continuing to fight for his life. I have never understood the technicalities of this story but have just sought elucidation by googling "constant-width polygon." (ibid.) The story definitely needs diagrams.

The Early Stories

I have discussed this before but let's look at it again. How much of the background of Poul Anderson's History of Technic Civilization is established in the opening stories?

2055 "The Saturn Game"
2150 "Wings of Victory"
24th century "The Problem of Pain"
2461 [2416] "Margin of Profit"
2461 [2416] "How To Be Ethnic..."
2468 [2423] "The Three-Cornered Wheel"

For the reason why different dates are listed in some cases, see here.

In "The Saturn Game," one character was brought up in the Jerusalem Catholic Church and the Moon has been colonized.

In "Wings of Victory," the hyperdrive has been invented, Ythri is discovered, Hermes has been colonized, Cynthian trade routes have been studied and human beings know of quadrupedal Wodenites.

In "The Problem of Pain," Aeneas has been colonized and has a University, Avalon is explored and the Ythrian New Faith is introduced.

"Margin of Profit" introduces van Rijn and the League.

"How To Be Ethnic..." introduces Adzel and mentions Cynthia, Gorzun, Ythri and an Alfzarian.

"The Three-Cornered Wheel" introduces Falkayn and Ivanhoe and imparts more information about Hermes. Ivanhoe will re-appear in "The Season of Forgiveness" and Ivanhoans will later join Supermetals. Merseia is also discovered in this period although we are not told that until "Day of Burning," set in 2478 [2430s].


In Poul Anderson's "The Three-Cornered Wheel," four Earthmen are shipwrecked on Ivanhoe:

Captain Krishna Mukerji;
Master Polesotechnician Martin Schuster;
Engineer Romulo Pasqual;
apprentice David Falkayn.

I think that it is worth recording each one because they all add to the richness of Anderson's Technic History. We know Falkayn - or will come to know him as we read the History. We learn that Schuster is Jewish and that his introduction of the Kabbalah will subvert the Ivanhoan theocracy. I am guessing that the other two are Hindu and Catholic respectively, at least by upbringing.

I thought that there must have been a fifth man because Pasqual refers to "Kirsh..." (The Van Rijn Method, p. 213) but there is no one else. "Kirsh" must be an abbreviation for "Krishna" and maybe should have read "Krish"? I will continue to mine this story for interesting details about the Technic History universe.

"All the traffic will bear."

"God" In Human And Alien Languages

We will consider human, then Andersonian alien. See also here.

How many gods are there? My answer is: none or many. How many uses of the word "God" are there? I used to think that belief in a single God united Jews, Christians, Muslims, Sikhs and some Hindus. However, groups in these traditions can use this word in very different senses. Bigots think that He is one of them. If "God" means just the object of mystical experience, then it need not refer to a person.

For a human use of the word "God" in Anderson's Technic History, see here.

Andersonian Aliens
Some Ivanhoans: "God."
Ythrians of the New Faith: "God the Hunter."
Merseians: "the God."
Aycharaych: "immortal God" (that may mean just that the Chereionite knew how to manipulate a human audience).

- and, outside the Technic History, in World Without Stars, some inhabitants of a planet orbiting a star in intergalactic space call our galaxy "God."

Aycharaych was speaking Anglic to a Terran. In the other four cases, "God" translates some word in an alien language: Planha and Eriau in the case of the Ythrians and Merseians, respectively. Those words must mean something that justifies their translation as "God" but they cannot entail any of the abstract theological doctrines that have been formulated on Earth. I think that, minimally, the alien words translated as "God" must mean some combination of:

maybe consciousness/personality?

However, there is no question of a personal relationship with either "God the Hunter" or "the God." A "God" that is merely present, like the Sun or our galaxy seen from outside, need not be particularly personal except perhaps in a very abstract sense, maybe just by the use of a personal instead of an impersonal pronoun?

Tuesday, 18 October 2016


"Remembering a little about Classical Greek philosophy - even if the human colony on Hermes had broken away from Earth and established itself as a grand duchy, it remained proud of its heritage and taught ancient history in the schools - Falkayn could follow that logic." (The Van Rijn Method, p. 206)

Three Points of Note
(i) Falkayn is responding to the Ivanhoan claim that circles and spheres are perfect shapes, therefore manifestations of God. This is different from either of the Ivanhoan religions encountered by Juan Hernandez.

(ii) This story introduces Falkayn and this sentence gives us the first information about his home planet, Hermes.

(iii) Hermetians are proud of their heritage, therefore are not losing their "soul" as suggested by the promoters of the Festival of Man. There are other examples:

Dennitzans preserve Orthodox Christianity and Serbian speech despite also being culturally influenced by their resident Merseians;
some Altaians revere Mother Terra.

Ivanhoe: Miscellania

(Combining our Ivanhoe and food and themes, the image shows Reese's Cup Sundae as served at Ivanhoe's Drive-In, Upland, Indiana.)

Texts that are historical in the Technic History timeline are fictional in our timeline. Narratives written in Planha by Hloch, in Anglic by Vance Hall or in a later human language by Donvar Ayeghen are rendered into English for our benefit. Thus, the title of a fully qualified member of the Polesotechnic League becomes variously "Master Merchant," "Master Trader" or "Master Polesotechnician."

David Falkayn converses with Rebo Legnor's-Child, Marchwarden of Gilrigor, and Juan Hernandez converses with Tokonnen Undassa's-child, chief of the Elassi Clan. Thus, even on different continents, each of the Ivanhoans has a personal name, a patronymic and a title, associated respectively with a place and a tribe.

We first see David Falkayn as a teen-aged apprentice in danger of his life among leonine Ivanhoans and we first see Dominic Flandry as a teen-aged Ensign in danger of his life among Starkadian Tigeries.